Bird watching is big business. According to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, birders spent an estimated $41 billion within the year on trip-related expenses and equipment. The report also states that one million Coloradans classified themselves as bird-watchers. And, there are 47 million bird-watchers ages 16 or older in the U.S. These statistics make birding the second fastest growing hobby in the country, after gardening. Colorado is a hotbed for birders, boasting nearly 500 recorded species.

Fort Collins offers exceptional opportunities to view many of these birds thanks to 44 protected Natural Areas encompassing more than 41,000 acres and 114 miles of trail. Natural Areas are pockets of land that offer recreation, education, scientific data collection, culture, ecological enhancement, and aesthetics – oases in an urban environment. Soapstone Prairie, Pineridge, and Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas are noted as the best for birding. Enthusiasts also appreciate the CSU Environmental Learning Center, which features a setting perfect for spotting waterfowl, owls, hawks, flickers, and a variety of songbirds.

Outdoor Rocky Mountain Raptor Center cages house eagles, owls, and hawks. Local birders also frequent City Park/Grandview Cemetery, Lee Martinez Park, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area, and Pawnee National Grassland. Birds to spot: Northern goshawk, white-tailed ptarmigan, mountain bluebird, Western tanager, sandhill crane, and burrowing owl. Click here for a checklist of local birds.

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department volunteer Master Naturalists and staff offer free Eagle Watches in the winter, as well as a busy schedule of free summer outdoor activities including bird walks and educational presentations: Or, find them on Facebook and Twitter by searching FCNaturalAreas. The Fort Collins Audubon Society offers free birding field trips throughout the year.  And, The Nature Conservancy’s 1,700-acre Phantom Canyon Preserve, located 30 miles northwest of Fort Collins, is open to the public only through The Nature Conservancy guided hikes and volunteer outings, which include birding hikes. Phantom Canyon is home to an estimated 100-plus species.  

Local Favorites

Authentic to Fort Collins
Parks & Open Spaces

Whether you’re in Fort Collins for a weekend or two weeks, it’s nearly impossible to explore all of the trails, lakes, and streams in the surrounding foothills and mountains.

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Horseback Riding

With an abundance of trails leading into the backcountry, Red Feather Lakes and the Poudre Canyon are itching to host your next horseback riding adventure. And if you didn’t bring your own...

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Hot Air Balloons

Riding in a hot air balloon above Fort Collins is like nothing you’ve experienced. You’ll see spectacular views of Colorado from an entirely different vantage point. 

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The Cache la Poudre River is truly a hidden treasure, with majestic cliffs and intriguing rock formations enveloped in ponderosa and lodgepole pines, sagebrush, mountain mahogany and aspen.

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Visitor Resources

Larimer County Natural Resources

Manages recreation at Carter Lake; Flatiron, Horsetooth, and Pinewood reservoirs; Big Thompson parks; Devil’s Backbone, Eagle’s Nest, Hermit Park, Horsetooth Mountain, Red Mountain, River Bluffs, and...

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U.S. Forest Service Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests

Manages recreation such as camping in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests (including the Poudre Canyon), and the Pawnee National Grasslands. Call or visit the website for information.

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Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northeast Region

Information on hunting, fishing, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.

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Fort Collins Spotlight